This is a comedy concerning Mr Poskett, a kind and decent magistrate who marries a widowed woman who he believes is 31 but is in fact 36. His wife lied about her age because she did not think Mr Posket would marry her if she was much older. However, because she lied about her age, she also had to lie about her son's age! So now Mr Posket believes that his stepson is only 14, when he is in fact 19, and acts very much like a 19-year-old! This causes problems and mayhem as the boy corrupts his stepfather and gets him involved in all sorts of mischief such as gambling, drinking and trouble with the police.
"The Magistrate", written last century, was billed (according to the program notes) "as an original farce because it expertly combined both French and English traditions". This comedy is without doubt a farce with all the ingredients of mistaken identity, unlikely coincidences, typical mayhem and confusion, and a fast paced plot.
The show is disappointing in the first act even though the plot is good, and the script is witty in places. However, after the interval the farce comes alive with many funny scenes and some brilliant acting, particularly from Ian Richardson as 'Mr Poskett', the Magistrate. He is a gem in this part with superb timing and great facial expressions and posture, wonderful stuff! The whole 'farce' rests upon his performance and he carries it off superbly. There are also fine performances from Graham Crowden as 'Col. Lukyn' and Frank Middlemass as 'Mr Bullamy, both of whom produce convincing characters. However, I found John Padden's character of 'Cis Farringdon' the stepson of Mr Posket, too hyperactive and at times irritating.
KATE STRATTON of TIME OUT says of Ian Richardson's performance, "He acts the socks off anybody else on stage." THE EVENING STANDARD says the play, "Remains a superbly crafted work". CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH said of the show when he seen it in Chichester in October, "It remains a supremely enjoyable comedy."
'The Magistrate' takes a while to get going but when it does; it is a funny and enjoyable play well worth seeing, particularly for Ian Richardson's performance.